The Philadelphia Phillies would prefer to be chasing New York for the lead in the NL East, but the sizable deficit they face may work to their benefit this weekend as they won’t see the best the Mets have to offer.
The Phillies continue their pursuit of the wild card Friday night when they try to halt the division-leading Mets’ seven-game winning streak in the opener of a three-game set at Shea Stadium.
Philadelphia (64-63) trails the first-place Mets (78-48) by 14 1/2 games in the East, but is 2 1/2 games out of the wild card lead.
“I think with them 13 or 14 games ahead, I don’t think they’d look at us the same way as if they were a game ahead of us,” Philadelphia manager Charlie Manuel said.
New York also enters with an 11-game home winning streak since a 5-3 loss to Philadelphia on Aug. 4. The Mets bullpen has a 1.45 ERA during the club’s longest winning streak at Shea since an 11-game run to close the 1995 season.
The Mets, however, are taking precautions with the healthy lead and will start rookie Brian Bannister (2-0, 2.89 ERA) on Friday. Bannister will be activated off the 60-day disabled list after being out due to a strained right hamstring.
He’s taking the mound in order to give veteran Orlando Hernandez some extra time to rest. Hernandez has thrown 131 innings this year, his most since 2002.
“We’re going to monitor his pitches and stuff,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “He’s been throwing a lot of pitches, and we have the luxury of seeing Bannister pitch.”
Bannister, whose last major league start was on April 26, went 3-2 with a 3.34 ERA in six rehab starts in the minor leagues. He’s never faced Philadelphia.
The Phillies have won 10 straight games started by Randy Wolf (2-0, 5.61), who will be making his sixth start of the season after missing more than a year due to elbow surgery.
The left-hander is unbeaten in his last 12 starts, going 7-0 with a 4.00 ERA.
Wolf has fared well in his career at Shea Stadium, going 5-1 with a 2.42 ERA in 12 starts. He lasted a season-low four innings on Aug. 4 in New York and gave up three runs and seven hits in Philadelphia’s victory.
The Phillies had a five-game winning streak snapped with a 9-2 loss at the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.
Starter Cole Hamels was roughed up for nine runs and nine hits over two-plus innings as Philadelphia fell into an early hole and never recovered.
“These losses are easy to walk away from,” Wolf said. “When you lose one in the bottom of the ninth after leading the whole time, those hurt.”
New York is 9-7 against Philadelphia this year, including a three-game road sweep from June 13-15 that opened up a 9 1/2 -game lead in the East.
The Phillies have won four of seven meetings with New York this month since falling out of contention for the division. They won three of four at home from Aug. 14-17 by outscoring the Mets 29-11.
“We need to go back and try and do the same—play relaxed and try to get them again,” first baseman Ryan Howard said.
Howard is 11-for-29 with three homers and seven RBIs over his last eight games against the Mets.
New York completed a three-game sweep of St. Louis with a 6-2 victory on Thursday. Right fielder Shawn Green went 1-for-3 with an RBI single in his Mets debut after being acquired from Arizona on Tuesday.
“I was real nervous before the game,” he said. “I felt a little extra focus.”